Angry relatives of fuel subsidy convict attack journalist

Angry relatives of convicted fuel subsidy fraudster, Adaoha Ugo-Nnadi, were physically restrained on Thursday from attacking a photojournalist working for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission trying to take photographs of the convict outside the courtroom.

Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi and Walter Wagbatsoma were sentenced to 10 years in prison for forgery, conspiracy, and altering documents to commit fuel subsidy fraud.

Justice Lateefa Okunnu found the convicts guilty on all counts of entering into a conspiracy (10 years jail term), obtaining by false pretence (10 years), conspiracy to commit forgery (seven years), forgery (eight years), and altering of documents (eight years).

For the convicts’ company, Ontario Oil and Gas, the judge made an order of restitution, mandating the company to return N754 million to the Nigerian government, being the amount the prosecution said it defrauded the country.

The jail terms, which would start counting from January 13, 2017, the day of their conviction, are to run concurrently, Mrs. Okunnu added.

The convicts were first arraigned by the EFCC in 2012 for fraud, forgery, and conspiracy amounting to N1.9 billion in the fuel subsidy scheme.

They were later re-arraigned in 2013 after the trial judge was elevated to the Court of Appeal, and then again in 2016 on an eight count amended charge.

They had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

“Sick” convict, angry relatives

The fraudsters were convicted on January 13 but proceedings were halted mid-way after Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi, the managing director of the company, collapsed in the dock and was rushed to a hospital.

The judge discharged and acquitted Babafemi Fakuade, an employee of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, who was arraigned alongside the convicts.

Mr. Wagbatsoma, the chairman of the company, was convicted and sentenced in absentia having been placed under house arrest in the UK where he is facing separate charges of money laundering.

Despite the court holding his international passport and other travel documents, Mr. Wagbatsoma was arrested in Germany and extradited to the UK to face money laundering charges.

On January 16, the next adjourned date for the judge to pronounce her sentence, the defence lawyers told the court Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi was “in very precarious” health condition at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.

Two days later, the judge was, again, forced to adjourn after Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi failed to attend the court’s proceedings, her lawyers citing a worsening health condition.

On Thursday, Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi arrived at the court premises in a Nigeria Prison’s hiace bus about two hours before the start of proceedings and walked unaided into the courtroom.

Her relatives and prison officials attacked an EFCC photographer who was trying to take her photographs outside the courtroom.

A few minutes before the judge’s appearance, a wheelchair was hurried into the courtroom and two female prison warders helped Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi into it.

At the end of proceedings, the convict’s relatives, again, attempted to attack the EFCC photojournalist for taking Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi’s photos as they attempted to carry her into a waiting bus.

The bus zoomed off without her wheelchair.

“You are inhuman,” one of her relatives shouted at the photographer.

Another relative threatened to smash his camera.

After the judge’s sentencing, Y.A Kadiri, counsel to the convicts, accused the EFCC of “unethical conducts” towards Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi.

“The second defendant has been in the hospital and has not fully recovered,” said Mr. Kadiri.

“Yet, the prosecution and their principal mounted enormous pressure on the hospital and got her evicted.”

The judge told the lawyer to channel his grievances to the appropriate quarter.

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